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LIBR 8 (Rippel) - Research and Information Literacy

A guide for LIBR 8 students.

Getting Started

Research projects can be intimidating, but it helps to have a plan of action in place.  Breaking it down by steps, even if you go back and forth between the steps a few times, can make the process seem much less overwhelming.  

To the right is a basic list of the steps involved in a general research project or paper.  Click on the steps to get some brief information about what that step entails.

Throughout the semester we will explore several of these steps in greater detail using the library catalog, databases, and Noodlebib.

The Research Process

Before starting an assignment, make sure that you have read it through completely and asked your professor for clarification on any parts that may be confusing.  Create a "plan of action" or "To Do" list with dates to make the assignment less overwhelming. In this case the "assignment" that we are working towards are the homeworks and the final project.

A good topic is….

  • Interesting to you.
  • Controversial or problematic (i.e. addresses an issue).
  • Appropriately sized for your assignment.
  • In-line with the assignment guidelines.

If you are having trouble thinking of a topic for your project, the databases, Opposing Viewpoints or CQ Researcher provide a great place to browse current issues. Hint: If your topic is listed in either of these databases they can be a good resources to use to cite as sources, since the information they contain meets the CRAAP criteria (See "Evaluating Materials" below).

Click here to view a video on choosing a topic.

Most topics are so big when they are first chosen that you need to narrow them down by asking a research question to help direct your searching and writing. However, before you can do this, you need to have a general idea about what the topic is and the issues surrounding it. In order to get this basic understanding you will need to do a bit of preliminary research or "presearch"

The best sources of information for presearch are reference materials because they provide a basic overview of a topic. The most used type of reference item is encyclopedias. Some great ideas for getting a basic overview of your topic are:

  • Wikipedia: an open web/freely accessible encyclopedia that anyone can edit.
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library: a library database that provides access to published reference sources for all types of subjects.
  • Credo Reference: another library database that provides access to published reference sources for all types of subjects.

Click here for a video on finding online reference materials using the library databases.

Developing a research question can make the research process more efficient, by providing a direction for your project.  Create a great research question by asking: Who?  What?  When?  Where?  Combine the answers to at least one of these questions with your topic to create a thoughtful question.

A good research question...

  • Has more than one variable (Who, What, Where, When).
  • Is open-ended.
  • Is not too broad or too narrow for the assignment.
  • Is one that you think you will find enough information to answer.
  • In-line with the assignment guidelines.

Click here to view a video on creating a research question.

Create a search strategy to help make your search more efficient.

A search strategy consists of a search formula and identifying places to search based on your information needs.

  • To create a search formula, identify the main keywords in your research question and join them together using the word "AND," then think of alternate words for each of your main concepts. Include them by using the word "OR." Remember that AND tells the database that you want both of those terms in all of the results and the word OR tells the database that the items can have either word.
  • To determine where to search, think of what types of information you need. Do you need in-depth information that books that you would find in the library catalog would provide? Do you need the narrow information that an article that you would find in the databases provide? Does the information need to be scholarly or popular? Subjective or objective? Once you have answered these questions, think of what tool to use (eReference, Catalog, Databases, of Open Web).

Click here to view a video on creating a search strategy.

Use materials to learn about a topic and to write or present about the topic. Use materials in your writing by citing directly using quotation marks, paraphrasing sentences or paragraphs; or by summarizing the entire item. Always make sure to use an in-text citation after each quote, paraphrase, or summary of an item, then have the full citation for the item you used in your Bibliography to avoid plagiarism.

Examples of resources:

Evaluate each resource that you come across, including websites, by asking the following questions:

Current?  Is this current to my topic?

References? Does the source have references to support its content?

Authority?  Does the author or entity support their statements with data or citations?

Appropriateness?  Is the source quality, length, and type appropriate for your needs?

Purpose?  Is this item written for the general public or for scholarly reasons?  Is it overly biased or commercial?

For more information about evaluating resources click here to view a video tutorial.

This is where you combine your own ideas with what you have learned from the resources/materials you found on your topic to tell the story of the issue or topic.  A great way to start this step is to create an outline, using the information you gathered from the resources, of what you would like to write about or present on the topic.  

A great resource for students having trouble writing, is our on-campus Tutorial Center.

You must cite the sources that you use to avoid plagiarism. All direct quotes, paraphrases, and summaries must be cited. In other words, all ideas or facts taken from some other writer, even though in your own words, must be cited. All creative works are copyrighted material, so it is PLAGIARISM if you use ideas from a resource without citing that resource

For each source collect…

  1. Author(s) and/or Editor(s).
  2. Date of publication.
  3. Article title.
  4. Publication Title (title of overall item that the article or item was published within).
  5. Publication information; including, edition, volume, pages, place, & publisher.
  6. URL or database name (if found online).

*Not all sources will have all of these elements & some sources may need additional elements, but this should be enough to get you started in Noodlebib or to at least be able to track down your source.

Use the library's subscription citation tool, Noodlebib, to help you create, organize, and manage citations and bibliographies.

Click here for a video on getting started with Noodlebib.

View our Citation Help Library Guide for more information on citing and the different styles

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